Nawazuddin Siddiqui playing the lead role in the Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray’s biopic had raised a few eyebrows but the actor is well on his way to get into the character. In a recent post on social media, Nawazuddin mentioned that preparation work for the film has just begun at the most apt location – Matoshree, the residence of the late BJP chief. The actor met with various Shiv Sena leaders namely Thackeray’s son Uddhav, grandson Aditya Thackeray and Sanjay Raut.
“More than myself, I appreciate Shiv Sena that they approached me for the role. That’s a huge thing. I am just an actor. I will anyway sit down with my director to come up with the best outcome but it is a huge deal that these people thought of me in the first place,” Nawazuddin had said in an interview.
The Shiv Sena party is well-known for its anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim stands. Earlier in October 2016, Nawazuddin had to call off a Ram Leela performance in Budhana, Uttar Pradesh following objections raised by local units of the Shiv Sena. A report on the Hindustan Times quoted Mukesh Sharma, the Shiv Sena district head as saying, “For over 50 years, no Muslim has been a part of the production. Why should this be allowed now? We went to the police and our members went around town to spread the word and urge people to stop this.”
It seems quite an irony to have Nawazuddin play the role of Bal Thackeray in the latter’s biopic. Nawazuddin is a Muslim actor hailing from Budhana in Uttar Pradesh. The Thackeray led Shiv-Sena had often resorted to physical assaults against taxi drivers and fruit vendors coming from Uttar Pradesh to Mumbai. The Sena had argued that the people from UP arrive in Mumbai and rob the Marathi manoos of their jobs. This is similar to how the Tamilians were targeted by the Sainiks in the 1960s.
But Nawazuddin is not the first person from UP to play Thackeray. Director Ram Gopal Varma had cast Amitabh Bachchan, an actor from Allahabad, to play the Thackeray-inspired character in his Sarkar series.